Preview Baloise Belgium Tour with Herman Frison
On Wednesday the 87th Belgium Tour kicks off. Five days long, the peloton will head across the country, from the coast to the Ardennes.
On Wednesday the race starts in Lochristi and the finish lies in Knokke-Heist on De Wandelaar. An opportunity for sprinters. The second stage finishes in Moorslede, the previous years a host of the Belgium Tour for women. After ninety kilometres the riders will cross the finish a first time. After a second crossing of the finish line, the riders head towards Monteberg and Kemmelberg. Then they return to Moorslede. On Friday an individual time trial of 13.4 kilometres in Beveren is scheduled. The next day, a small version of Liège-Bastogne-Liège is waiting for the riders. The stage starts and finishes in Ans that day. There are eleven hills on the course, three in the last 25 kilometres: La Roche aux Faucons, Saint-Nicolas and Rue Naniot. The last hill lies at six kilometres from the finish. Sunday it’s a flat stage between Tienen and Tongeren.
Seven of the eight Lotto Soudal riders at the start are Belgians. They will have to compete against a number of compatriots like Philippe Gilbert, Oliver Naesen, Jens Keukeleire and Wout Van Aert. Of course there are also opponents from abroad, such as three-time winner Tony Martin and Mathieu Van der Poel.
Herman Frison, sports director Lotto Soudal: “The first stage is a sprint stage in theory, but you never know. There are only five WorldTour teams at the Belgium Tour and the other teams are always really keen to show themselves. If a large break gets away, then we definitely need to have someone in the group too. In case it is a sprint, Jens Debusschere is our man. Jürgen Roelandts, who will be riding his first race since Paris-Roubaix, will do the lead-out.”
“The second stage is new. We ride through Heuvelland that day, including over the Kemmelberg. The riders do the ascent of the Kemmel with still forty kilometres to go, but it can always be a decisive moment. We will also need to be attentive for echelons. In that case there could be time gaps on GC. We have several guys who could do well on that stage. We have to perform as a team that day.”
“The field will completely fall apart on Saturday. This stage and the time trial will normally determine the overall ranking. If we aren’t high on GC, we will need to attack. Jelle Vanendert could set a good result in Ans. Tiesj Benoot has just come back from altitude training camp in the Sierra Nevada, so we have to see how his body reacts.”
“We are aiming for a stage win and a good GC. Top five or top three should be possible and winning the GC would be great of course. The bonus seconds can definitely play a role in the battle for the overall victory. The Golden Kilometre (three bonus sprints during one kilometre, LTS) in the finales of the stages could be crucial, with a maximum of nine seconds that can be gained each day. This could make it exciting. Philippe Gilbert will be a main opponent, just like Tony Martin.”
Line-up Lotto Soudal: Tiesj Benoot, Jens Debusschere, Nikolas Maes, Rémy Mertz, Jürgen Roelandts, Marcel Sieberg, Jelle Vanendert and Jelle Wallays.
Sports directors: Herman Frison and Marc Wauters.
Stage 1 Wednesday 24 May Lochristi – Knokke-Heist (176.3 km)
Stage 2 Thursday 25 May: Knokke-Heist – Moorslede (189.7 km)
Stage 3 Friday 26 May: Beveren – Beveren (13.4 km) (ITT)
Stage 4 Saturday 27 May: Ans – Ans (184 km)
Stage 5 Sunday 28 May: Tienen – Tongeren (177 km)